Michigan is known for its cool cars and even cooler music (Motown!). Michigan also boasts pet-friendly outdoor activities galore. Surrounded by the beautiful waters of the Great Lakes, Michigan offers fantastic outdoor beach and lake activities. No other state can claim being bordered by 4 out of the 5 Great Lakes while owning many large state parks. Perfect for pet owners and emotional support animals (ESAs) who love the water or enjoy hiking, Michigan offers fun on both land and water. 

How Do You Define an Emotional Support Animal in Michigan?

An emotional support animal (ESA) assists people who suffer from an emotional or mental disability. By providing comfort with their presence, an ESA is a part of a person’s mental health treatment. An ESA doesn’t require any special task training but does need to be well-behaved around other people and animals. Most emotional support animals are dogs, but there are in fact no restrictions on what type of animal can be used; a cathamster, rat, a rabbit, or even an iguana can fulfill the role of an ESA.

An ESA is often confused with a service animal. A service animal receives very detailed task training, specific to a disabled person’s needs. For instance, a person with mobility issues may have a service dog trained to fetch medications and food.   

State and federal laws that apply to service animals may not extend to emotional support animals. Fortunately, federal laws apply to ESAs, namely the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). These laws allow an emotional support animal to travel and reside with their owner, respectively, as long as an ESA letter is provided.

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What Is An ESA Letter in Michigan? 

An ESA letter is a document providing proof that an animal is a current part of a person’s mental health plan. The letter provides documentation of your need for the animal and provides protection under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). A legitimate ESA letter allows you and your emotional support animal to be in the cabin of an airplane and to live in apartments and homes that typically don’t allow pets in most of Michigan’s rental properties.

A ESA letter confirms the ESA is an invaluable part of the owner’s treatment of a mental or emotional disability.
A ESA letter confirms the ESA is an invaluable part of the owner’s treatment of a mental or emotional disability.

Who Can Write an ESA letter in Michigan? 

It’s important that a certified licensed healthcare professional with a valid license number writes the ESA letter, such as:

  • licensed nurse practitioners
  • licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists
  • medical doctors
  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)

Though you can obtain an ESA letter both online and in-person, it’s always best to verify the professional’s license number and state to make sure the letter is legitimate.

A legitimate ESA letter in Michigan must be written and signed by a licensed healthcare professional licensed to practice in the state of Michigan.

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Where You Can Go with Your ESA in Michigan

In general, many business owners are very welcoming of pets. However, ESA owners must still abide by general animal laws and pet restrictions, especially in places of business. Federal guidelines ensure that ESA owners may have their ESA with them in these areas where pets are not typically allowed:  

By law, other public places and establishments are not required to accept emotional support animals. However, several establishments are kind enough to allow ESAs. It’s advised to check with the establishment to ensure bringing an ESA will not cause any issues.

Regardless of animal type, an ESA can stay with their owner despite no-pets policies.
Regardless of animal type, an ESA can stay with their owner despite no-pets policies.

Where You Can Adopt an ESA in Michigan 

One of the most exciting parts of finding a pet or an ESA is the search! Sometimes, it takes a bit of time to find the right fur-ever friend for you. Once you find that connection, you’ll know. Michigan offers many animal rescue sites for you to find your ideal emotional support animal. The following are a few highly rated pet rescues. 

New Hope Pet Rescue

New Hope Pet Rescue, Michigan

New Hope Pet Rescue takes in unwanted animals and meets their mental and physical needs while waiting for their future homes. By saving animals from shelters that euthanize them, New Hope Pet Rescue hopes to find matches for these animals—giving them another lease on life. 

Wishbone Pet Rescue

Wishbone Rescue Alliance, Michigan

Located in Douglas, Wishbone Pet Rescue provides shelter and medical care to homeless animals. Wishbone Pet Rescue cares for over 3,000 animals each year, and their current goal is to save and rehome 100 percent of their animals. Their HQ in Douglas also has cage-free cat petting rooms.

Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary 

Mackenzies Animal Shelter, Michigan

Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary, located near Clarksville, is Mid West’s largest no-kill shelter. The sanctuary takes in abused, abandoned, and neglected dogs and provides medical care and rehabilitation. Their K-9 Enrichment program trains and socializes dogs, which prepares them well for their new families. 

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Where to Take Your ESA for Exercise Before a Flight out of Detroit (DTW)

Do your pup—and yourself—a favor by letting them run and play before a flight. Allowing your pet to stretch their legs before a cramped flight can benefit both you and your dog. Also, make sure your ESA relieves themselves before the flight. It’ll make the journey much more pleasant for everyone! Here are a few dog parks near DTW where your doggo can have a pre-flight run and bathroom break. 

Detroit Dog Park 

This dog park may be small, but it’s conveniently located in the city. And with plenty of dogs to socialize with, your furry friend won’t even notice the size. Detroit Dog Park can get a bit muddy when it rains, so do bring some towels if it’s cloudy. 

Detroit Dog Par, Detroit, Michigan
2699 Rose St, Detroit, MI 48216 (map)

Grand Circus Dog Park

The Grand Circus Dog Park is well-kept and spacious. With a very community-oriented focus, the park offers activities for their dogs and owners throughout the year. You may be able to catch their Dog Prom or Canine Karaoke and participate in the fun! 

Grand Circus Dog Park, Detroit, Michigan
2-98 E Adams Ave, Detroit, MI 48226 (map)

Behnke Memorial Dog Park 

The Behnke Memorial Dog Park is a well-maintained fenced dog park with all the amenities for you and your dog. Drinking fountain for pets and people? Check. Poop bags and disposal stations? Check. Trees for shade? Check. Benches for two-legged animals? Check. It even has a fake fire hydrant and an obstacle course. What more could your doggy ask for? 

Behnke Memorial Dog Park, Detroit Michigan
300 N Groesbeck Hwy, Mt Clemens, MI 48043 (map)

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If the LMHP you are working with is not familiar with ESA regulations, you may qualify for an ESA letter online from an LMHP licensed in Michigan. Click on the banner below to apply.
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